Feast Portland, a Week Later: Reflecting on a Bounty of Food and Philosophy

It’s been a week since returning from the four-day festival/feeding frenzy known as Feast Portland, and I find myself reflecting on the easily lost words that followed the colon in the title: “A Celebration of Oregon Bounty.”

The program guide described Portland and Oregon as “living food festivals,” and that feeling was apparent throughout the long weekend. Aside from the festival happenings, attendees found themselves surrounded by a wealth of culinary options, including quality coffeeshops, bakeries, breweries, restaurants, and—separating Portland from Seattle, at least for the time being—pods of food carts.

The bounty of eating and drinking places in Portland and outlying areas is due to the bounty of building blocks in the state of Oregon. The land provides a wide array of fruits and vegetables, including grapes for the wine industry and hops for the breweries. That same land is suitable for raising animals to produce organic chicken, beef, and pork. Meanwhile, the waters are a source of crab, salmon, tuna, and more.

But while there’s a sense of abundance, many in the state and country go hungry. Hence, the proceeds from Feast Portland will benefit Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and also Share Our Strength, a national organization aimed at ending childhood hunger.

In this spirit, huge numbers came from the immediate area and afar to attend the festival, which was so well-organized that it felt far from a first-year effort. The biggest of the events were the two afternoon Oregon Bounty Grand Tastings. In the heart of the city, the Grand Tastings turned Pioneer Courthouse Square into a smorgasbord of food and drink, a gathering place to talk with winemakers, brewers, artisans, and other vendors—and to taste what they had to offer. Participants also enjoyed book signings and a chance to see chef demonstrations by the likes of April Bloomfield, recent Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino, and former Top Chef winner Paul Qui.

The first three evenings featured additional major tasting events. The Sandwich Invitational (my report here) offered an opportunity to try 15 sandwiches of varying types. Next was a Night Market (my report here) that was a celebration of global street food. And finally there was a High Comfort (my report here) event in which chefs were asked to create “comfort foods pushed out of their comfort zone and into an elevated and rarefied realm.”

As if that’s not enough eating, Feast Portland also served up a Dinner Series with several intriguing teamings of chefs each night. Included was a 10-course, 5-hour dinner by Inaki Aizpitarte (Le Chateaubriand in Paris) and Daniel Patterson (Coi in San Francisco and Plum in Oakland), which I documented here.

And then there were seminars and lectures. Some seminars were hands-on, like a chance to do pig butchery, while others were more informational, like a coffee-making class—though most were followed by tasting opportunities. Most fascinating and impressive to me was the Whole Foods Market Speaker Series. Seamlessly orchestrated with music and slides, this event featured a diverse range of interesting speakers (and speaking styles) examining the current food scene in Portland and beyond, and looking at what the future holds. The Speaker Series reinforced the notion of bounty, and challenged us to report about it and partake in it responsibly and appreciatively.

The four days were thought-provoking, inspirational, and thoroughly filling—in mind and stomach. I feel lucky to have attended, and already have next year’s dates (September 20-23) in my calendar with hope that I’ll be available to return. (I also hope we’ll have something like Feast Seattle someday!) For now, check the photos below for a closer look at the Feast Portland festival.

The scene at the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting.

One of my favorite bites from the Grand Tasting: Wild Coos Bay butter clam with foie gras, pickled chanterelles, micro wasabi greens, micro bull’s blood greens, bonito flakes, and miso broth. (Prepared by Rick Martinez at Finn’s Fish House in Seaside.)

Sampling of pies by Grand Central in Portland. (“Moded” on-site with ice cream from Ruby Jewel.)

Delicious Hott Sauce straight and in sample dishes from NW Elixirs.

The most captivating display at the Grand Tasting was by Sybaris restaurant in Albany, Oregon. Here is some house-made smoked elk sausage with huckleberry mostarda, elk bresaola chip, and camas-acorn cake with smoked elk tongue.

Display from Jacobsen Salt Co. at the Grand Tasting.

A rare sight: No line for Portland’s Salt & Straw ice cream. Reason enough to attend Feast Portland!

Nice flavors from Xocolatl de David in Portland.

Moonstruck Chocolate Company (Portland) serving up some adult confections.

Plenty of Stumptown coffee to keep people going.

A look inside the Grand Tasting.

Paul Qui prepares for his cooking demo at the Grand Tasting.

Chris Cosentino of Incanto (San Francisco) does a cooking demo at the Grand Tasting.

Speaking of Cosentino, here’s his pork skin spaghetti puttanesca at the High Comfort event.

One of my favorite dishes at High Comfort: cereal of maple pork corn flakes, smoked berry marshmallows, and toasted hazelnut milk from Ox in Portland.

Amanda Freitag of the Food Network cooking up potato pancakes (with Carlton Farms bacon, roasted tomato, cipollini jam, and beer reduction) at the High Comfort event.

At the Whole Foods Market Speaker Series, food writer Karen Brooks captivates the audience while the guitar player watches.

Still at the Speaker Series, writer Francis Lam interviews chef Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady’s in Charleston.

Andy Ricker demonstrates how to make pad Thai while David Thompson of nahm restaurant looks on and provides humorous commentary.

After Ricker’s demo, a sampling of his pad Thai.

Back to Cosentino, he teamed with Vitaly Paley for the Dinner Series, and here’s his whole roasted squab (head split in half) with lardo, squash, and hazelnut bread sauce.

Paley just opened Imperial in Portland, and for his collaborative dinner with Cosentino served this potlatch pilaf-stuffed poblano pepper with cherry tomato, grilled corn relish, and walnut cream.

From Cosentino/Paley, foie gras crudo, pickled chanterelles, and doug fir.

From the Aizpitarte/Patterson collaboration for the Dinner Series, here’s inverted fromage blanc tart with fennel and wheatgrass.

Same dinner, shot halfway through eating this

dish: coquillages, palmier, beurre manzanilla.

The menu for the Aizpitarte/Patterson meal.

At the Night Market, Pok Pok’s khao kha muu, which is literally “rice with pork leg” that has five spice flavor.

Gregory Gourdet of Departure (Portland) presides over his five creations for the Night Market.

Aviary’s (Portland) grilled fish balls with sweet soy and bonito flakes at the Night Market.

As if there wasn’t enough food, here’s a box of sandwiches (and a kale salad, as if to make things healthy!) from Lardo.

Stumptown experts educate the crowd about coffee-making while Oliver Strand of festival sponsor Food and Wine magazine looks on.

A demonstration of the AeroPress for coffee-making.

Ethan Stowell came down from Seattle for the Sandwich Invitational and presented his pork belly porchetta sandwich with Bosc pear and onion mostarda.

Winner of the Sandwich Invitational: Beast’s (Portland) maple-glazed pork belly with pickled watermelon slaw on a housemade semolina roll.

Cuban fritas sandwich (made with chicken liver, Kobe beef, pork tenderloin, and veal) from Irving Street Kitchen in Portland is a standout at the Sandwich Invitational.